Don’t Mess With The Method

Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m not a scientist.  I was good at the subject as a kid, and had some biology college credit coming out of high school as a result, but that’s just not the path I chose.

Still, I have a great respect for scientific thought, and science has obviously had an enormous effect on how we live our lives.  The computer you read this on, your television, your microwave, how your house is heated and cooled, all of them and so much more the result of scientific method and not reverse engineered from some secret crashed UFO with superior technology.

Scientific method isn’t perfect, but it works, and provides us with the best blue print on understanding the world around us, and making advancements in this world.  And you know what?  It works best without being impeded by those who do not respect it.

Apparently, though, the White House didn’t get that memo.  Indeed, when it comes to the topic of Climate Change, the White House has done everything it could to interject politics into the scientific method.

The White House Censored Climate Change Scientists

The White House exerted unusual control over the public statements of federal scientists on climate change issues. It was standard practice for media requests to speak with federal scientists on climate change matters to be sent to CEQ for White House approval. By controlling which government scientists could respond to media inquiries, the White House suppressed dissemination of scientific views that could conflict with Administration policies. The White House also edited congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change.

Former CEQ Chief of Staff Philip Cooney told the Committee: “Our communications people would render a view as to whether someone should give an interview or not and who it should be.” According to Kent Laborde, a career public affairs officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, media requests related to climate change issues were handled differently from other requests because “I would have to route media inquires through CEQ.” This practice was particularly evident after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Laborde was asked, “Did the White House and the Department of Commerce not want scientists who believed that climate change was increasing hurricane activity talking with the press?” He responded: “There was a consistent approach that might have indicated that.”

White House officials and agency political appointees also altered congressional testimony regarding the science of climate change. The changes to the recent climate change testimony of Dr. Julie Gerberding, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have received considerable attention. A year earlier, when Dr. Thomas Karl, the Director of National Climatic Data Center, appeared before the House Oversight Committee, his testimony was also heavily edited by both White House officials and political appointees at the Commerce Department. He was not allowed to say in his written testimony that “modern climate change is dominated by human influences,” that “we are venturing into the unknown territory with changes in climate,” or that “it is very likely (>95 percent probability) that humans are largely responsible for many of the observed changes in climate.” His assertion that global warming “is playing” a role in increased hurricane intensity became “may play.”

The White House Extensively Edited Climate Change Reports

There was a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change by editing climate change reports. CEQ Chief of Staff Phil Cooney and other CEQ officials made at least 294 edits to the Administration’s Strategic Plan of the Climate Change Science Program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties or to deemphasize or diminish the importance of the human role in global warming.

The White House insisted on edits to EPA’s draft Report on the Environment that were so extreme that the EPA Administrator opted to eliminate the climate change section of the report. One such edit was the inclusion of a reference to a discredited, industry-funded paper. In a memo to the Vice President’s office, Mr. Cooney explained: “We plan to begin to refer to this study in Administration communications on the science of global climate change” because it “contradicts a dogmatic view held by many in the climate science community that the past century was the warmest in the past millennium and signals of human induced ‘global warming.’”

In the case of EPA’s Air Trends Report, CEQ went beyond editing and simply vetoed the entire climate change section of the report.

I’ve always understood the opposition to climate change.  On a corporate level, acknowledging and being forced to act on climate change with the level of urgency that scientists believe it deserves could result in adversity for many big companies.  It would require severe changes to business practices and could result in a near term dip in profit.  For those who oppose climate change on a more cultural level, for those in the peanut gallery who think that we “greenies” are simply causing a stir so we can rob Americans of their SUVs, I get that too.

You want to drive a huge honkin’ gas guzzler, and it should be your right, I fully understand.

Understanding, however, does not mean that I think these folks are right, or even have a valid point.  I’m sorry, when you have a bunch of scientists that say, “hey, we’re killing the world,” then I think that bears listening to.  When they say that my grandkids might be able to purchase beachfront property in Iowa, yeah, you get my attention, especially considering that I come from a very coastal family.  And of course, when you point out that global warming could increase both the intensity and the frequency of hurricanes, then I think that’s probably something you might want to pay attention to.

So I get that there might be those who kick and scream, it’s kinda like birthing pains I guess.  This because dealing with climate change really does require a significant amount of change on all of our parts, and in virtually all cases, change is hard and you have plenty of people who are ready to fight it tooth and nail.

But the White House censoring the findings of federal scientists… that’s a little different.  These are the folks that we rely upon to let us know if Climate Change is real, how big of a problem it is, and hopefully what we can do to avoid it, and they operate under the scientific method.  According to the oversight committee, whole reports are getting binned, while others are politically filtered to ease the blow.  This is all well and good in politics, but science doesn’t work that way.

Science works upon honest reporting, and when the government steps in to alter that reporting, it no longer can be said to be honest.  From here, the public as well as other scientists are now forced to carry on based on false conclusions.  In other words, the integrity of the method that brought us hair dryers and ipods has been under assault.

Don’t believe in climate change?  Okay great.  But at least let your choice be informed by unfettered scientists as opposed to political operatives hedging their bets.

3 Responses to “Don’t Mess With The Method”

  1. Neo says:

    Climate warming is naturally caused and shows no human influence by Prof. David H. Douglass (Univ. of Rochester), Prof. John R. Christy (Univ. of Alabama), Benjamin D. Pearson (graduate student), and Prof. S. Fred Singer (Univ. of Virginia).

    I thought the debate was over. Looks like we’re going to have to live with it.

  2. Roy says:

    Wow, one paper. Impressive.

    The last IPCC report was based on 29 000 data SETS i.e. was one of the most thoroughly researched and documented studies ever done.

  3. Don’t even bother, Roy. If they get one dude to strap on the title of “scientist” that’s all they need.

    Ironic, really. It takes thousands of scientists, and some of these folks refuse to even cut evolution a break, but bring up a handful willing to go against climate change and all of a sudden they’re all ears.

    Which is the point. Scientific method isn’t about what you believe, it’s about what you can prove. This picking and choosing crap doesn’t fly. In climate change, sure, there might be some dissent somewhere, but the overwhelming data points towards CC happening, and humans playing a role in it.

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